Shogun Media City – Shoulda Called it Harakiri Instead

There are some old school establishments in Dubai, that are a part of most people’s restaurant rotations.  One of these is the classic Shogun, in Al Ghurair Center in Deira.   This is home to cook it yourself Korean BBQ – Kalbi and Bulgogi are the standards, and some like the chicken and shrimp too.  I, being a purist, stick with the standard options.  Some nice chill sauce, some crisp lettuce to wrap up the tasty, meaty morsels in, and some kimchi on the side – I’m Golden.  Shogun does a good job of bringing this to those of us craving Korean food in Dubai.

So, obviously, when we saw the signs that Shogun was opening in Media City, in New Dubai, we were ecstatic – the wait was on – and on – and on – and on – and on – and on………  A year plus later, we got the call from our friends, who live next door – it was open.  Plans were made, cars were loaded, and the short trip was made.  Nice set up – obviously some money has been spent on the interior.  We were seated, menus were provided and then the news was broken – no permits yet to allow for table side cooking.  The food would need to be prepared in the kitchen and then served – ok…….not ideal, but let’s go for it.

Out comes the variety of kimchi – overall, clean, fresh tasting.  Can feel the subtleties of the more mild varieties and can feel the punch of the more pungent varieties with ease.  Cool and crisp – soft and smooth – I liked it.


Some radish, some carrot – pickled with some chilli, hence the redness.  Not overpowering at all, but crisp, and slightly sweet, with a bit of an afterbite.


Bean Sprouts – Very clean flavours – nothing overpowering at all.  I like the cool crisp feeling of the sprouts in my mouth.  Defined flavours of sesame seed oil provides a background smokiness, which is very pleasant.


Bean Curd and asparagus – Didn’t try this one.  Not a fan of bean curd.


This was very tasty – never had eggplant served with kimchi before, but this was slightly stewed, which took away from the meaty texture that can come with eggplant sometimes.  Was very tender and cooked through.  Nice.



The classic, spicy, vinegared cabbage kimchi.  Strong flavours, crispy cabbage, good balance, and not too spicy.  A nice punch to the palate.

So why the negativity around the title you ask, if everything was good up to this point.  Remember, the kimchi comes out automatically, virtually immediately.  We are now about 9 minutes into the ride.  Minute 10, disaster.

The first thing we had actually ordered front he menu was spicy tuna rolls, just to get things kicked off.  The old Shogun has a surprisingly good sushi chef, so I assumed it would be a similar offering here.  Wrong.


Spicy Tuna Rolls – The rice was mushy, the rolls were opening up when dipped in the soy, the tuna just wasn’t seasoned well, and the hot sauce permeated through the rice (as you can see above) rather than staying constricted with the tuna mixture.  The parsley garnish was a little odd, also.  Ok, so not disastrous, per se, but the foreshadowing on what was to come was unmistakable.

For the main courses, of course we had ordered the Kalbi and the Bulgogi.  If any of you have been reading this blog since late last year, you will recall that I take my Korean ribs pretty seriously (  When I think Bulgogi I think perfection – a beautifully marbled piece of beef rib, cut thin so the meat is tender, fatty, juicy delicious.  According to Wikipedia, “It is listed at number 41 on the World’s 50 most delicious foods readers’ poll complied by CNN Go in 2011″.  The flavours are complex – yet simple.  Sweet Soy, brown sugar, garlic, onions, sesame oil – classic Korean BBQ flavours.  You grill it up so it’s slightly charred on the outside, yet medium rare inside – wrap it up with some rice and chill paste/oil in a crisp cool lettuce leaf and you have perfection.  This is what its supposed to look like:


And this is what we got:


Sorry? Are you sure this is the grilled Kalbi? Yes Sir….Kalbi.  Think of everything I described above.  Forget it.  Think greasy, oily, spicy, overcooked, stewed/stir fried, SPICY – this was more dopiaza than grilled Kalbi.  Korea with a 200 year stopover in Kerala, onwards to Media City.  This was not what I ordered.  They gave us the lettuce leaves, but I should have asked for some Naan bread.  Terrible – absolutely awful.

Bulgogi – Korea’s most beloved bbq dish.  Instead of using a rib, it uses thinly sliced rib eye steak or sirloin steak, but the flavour profile for the marinade is very similar to the Kalbi marinade.  Sweet-ish.   This is what was served:


This was best described by one of our friends as a fairly decent Tawa Gosht.  It was tough, spicy, oily and, all in all – miserable.  Just miserable.


The chill oil was the highlight of the meal – it was salty and spicy.  I spooned some on my white rice, and filled up on this.

New restaurant – teething pains – I get it.  Maybe I should give it another shot – A friend was told by the manager of the original that they were having some trouble with their meat supplier, and hence the inconsistency with the quality.  My question:  (1) Why serve it  (2) Doesn’t justify the horrible flavour/preparation.

I wish I could give it another shot – I really do – but I can’t and won’t.  There are too many good options out there for me to go back here again.  If I can make it better at home, I’m not about to pay for a mediocre version at a restaurant.  Sorry Shogun.

Till Next Time.


An End of Summer Pool Party and BBQ

To celebrate Eid and to welcome in the cooler evenings of Dubai’s Fall, we had some friends around for a little pool/bbq fun this week.  MEA and BA brought over a fantastic Nutella pie from Saladicious in Jumeirah and MNA and AA brought over a delicious chocolate cake.  So glad that MKM and KM were able to swing by, post their family dinner for a drink and some Mint Shisha.

Dinner was planned to be casual, but I woke up that morning, adamant to get my hands on some ribs – not just any short ribs, but Gangam style ribs (erm..Korean style).  In Toronto, I remember my neighbourhood Brunos ( having this spectacular, pre marinated, miami style beef rib (the rib was butchered in the typical Korean manner – what is called Kalbi or Galbi).  This marinade resulted in a piece of meat that was sweet, sticky and usually resulted in my licking my fingers clean.

The way that Kalbi style ribs are butchered is different to the usual, long beef rib that one tends to picture, when thinking of a typical bbq’d beef rib.

Time for a little beef rib 101:

The usual beef rib that comes to mind is usually the texas style beef rib – available in Dubai at places like Tony Roma’s etc.  These rack of ribs are left in their glorious entirety, and provide a robust, beefy (albeit, sometimes stringy if not cooked properly) chew.  A picture of these kinds of ribs is below:

Kalbi is prepared by the butcher in a different way.  How does this differ, you ask?  This is my favourite way to eat beef ribs, FYI.  Once the beef is broken down into its usual parts, and the rib rack is separated, to get Korean style ribs, the butcher cuts thin slices, horizontally, across the rib bone.  What results is thin slices of gold – perfectly balanced strips that have both beef and fat, intermingled together – melt in your mouth tenderness.  A picture of a raw Kalbi style beef rib is below (the picture below show a de-boned version of Kalbi).


This was available to my family and I at Korean BBQ restaurants – I was unable to find, after moving to Dubai, a butcher from whom to source this beef.  I had done a tremendous amount of research on the internet, and finally, when I woke up the day of the BBQ, I thought I had located a supermarket that catered to the South East Asian community in Dubai – and, allegedly, they carried various meats also!  I made my way over to A-1 Supermarket, near Safa Park, and WOW…..I cannot believe that this place has been here for the past few years, under my nose, and I didn’t know it existed.  If you haven’t been – and you like asian ingredients – you need to go….now.  They have a frozen and fresh meat section – fancy a Shabu Shabu?  No problem – A1 has the thinly shaved ribeye for that Shabu Shabu.  Bulgogi?  No sweat – 3 different kinds of Bulgogi beef.  Ribs – boneless and with bones. Pre marinated.  No marinade.  Bottled marinade.


I bought a pile of fresh ribs with bone, (didn’t want the pre marinated stuff, because I do like to tweak (read: not twerk), and had a couple of delicious recipes that I had downloaded and wanted to try) and made my way home.  I couldn’t help but call B, who didn’t understand my excitement (she is not a rib person, and prefers what little beef she does eat to be ultra lean) – she did however instruct me to pick her up some wasabi peas and some seaweed snacks (Miso flavoured and Wasabi Flavoured) that she loves to nibble on.

Image    Image

So, I made my way home, and started to prep for the evening.  The menu:

Grilled Whole Seabass Provencal, Drizzled with Warm EVOO Infused with Fresh Basil

Charcoal Grilled Sirloin Steak

Grilled Kalbi Ribs

Parmesan Truffle Fries

Garden Salad

Overall, everything turned out great – the friends loved the ribs – they came out beautifully.  I think I will add some Sriracha style Thai hot sauce to the marinade next time, to add some spice to balance the sweetness/saltiness.  The sea bass was tender and delicate and the EVOO drizzled on top made it even better – the charred, crispy skin, was a great contrast to the inside. The steak’s were cooked to medium well, as that is what many wanted to eat – a far cry from my and BA’s preference of medium rare!  The truffle fries, if you haven’t tried them – you should.  Delicious…..and the smell…….wow.   Make some fries, once done, drizzle a little truffle infused olive oil on top, and some truffle salt.  Shake and add some shredded parmesan cheese.  RIDICULOUS.

Some pictures are below – thanks to all who came.  Was a great evening!


Garden Salad


Truffle Parmesan Fries


Sirloin Steak




Kalbi Ribs

In Search for the Perfect Tomahawk

Anyone who knows me knows that I do love my steak – perfectly seared crust with a cool red centre! Not too much spice, or rub, please – I like to taste the quality of my meat.  That being said, I do enjoy a nice piece of bavette that has been marinated in a home made Korean style marinade using soy, ginger, sugar……but thats a story for another day.

When I first moved to Dubai, I found it very difficult to source well butchered, aged beef – the kind I was used to shopping for and cooking in North America.  Over the past few years, there have been new entrants on the gourmet grocery front that have made this easier.  I used to buy my steaks from The Butcher Shop in the Mall of the Emirates, initially. I continue to believe that dollar for dollar, The Butcher Shop is one of the best steak meals in town, and they provide a very good steak for those who want to fire up the ol’ grill at home as well – Ribeye, Sirloin, Porterhouse, Rump – these are all available, and can be cut to order if the pre-cut pieces are not large enough, thick enough!  Their BBQ basting sauce is also exceptionally good, to baste on the meat for those who are looking for a little zing.

Then came Prime Gourmet Meats on Sh. Zayed Road – the first real westernised butter shop that I was able to find in Dubai.  They had various cuts of beef (wagye, free range, grain fed), lamb, veal etc.  They were also making fresh sausage in house, which was nice.

Finally, there was  I love this website – the guys who run it are foodies, and they aim to provide the kind of ingredients that were tough to find in Dubai.  Anyone up for a 3.5 kg Canadian Beef Brisket?  How about some fresh truffles?  Some Onglet?  You can make a large order of been with them, and they will vacuum pack the steaks individually, so they can be frozen and used when you would like – great, quick service.  Highly recommend it.  They provided me with an amazing, 150 day aged, 1.5 kg Tomahawk steak – essentially a bone in rib steak, with the bone left long, to essentially resemble….well….a Tomahawk!  Because of the vacuum packing, they cut the bone short, but did provide the cut off piece vacuum packed, as well!


No need for any marinade on this one – a little olive oil, and some coarse sea salt (im not a huge pepper fan).  Sear it off on a very hot grill and done to a perfect medium rare.  If you want a higher internal temperature (medium well/well done), I would recommend some time on indirect heat, or finishing it off in the oven, as not to burn the exterior on the grill – its a thick cut of meat and does take some time to cook through.  Once cooked, LET IT REST.  I cannot stress this enough – not enough people let any of the meat they cook on a grill rest before serving it and slicing it.  When a protein is cooking, the juices inside are running through it – when its done, you HAVE to let is sit, under a dome of foil, and let the juices get settled in to the fibres – re distribute themselves.  THEN, when you slice you, you get a wonderful, juicy piece of meat – if you cut it too soon, all the juices run out and the end product is less juicy and more tough.

Because the Tomahawk is 1.5kg, uncooked, I usually serve it off the bone, sliced, so it is easier to share – my wife only eats tenderloin, so its my son and I who go to town on something like this.  When slicing any steak to serve, try to slice it on a bias, against the grain (if the fibres of the meat are going north/south, for example, cut east/west – AGAINST the grain).

Here is it – the finished product:


A lovely medium rare – charred on the outside, and perfectly red on the inside.


Away from the home, I’m a big fan of the Centre Cut Steakhouse at the Ritz Carlton DIFC.  It’s never too busy, great service, and consistently good food.  They have a 1.2 KG tomahawk on offer there, which I have been known to step up and devour solo, on occasion.  I would highly recommend this to anyone looking for a great steak in Dubai – please try the Red Wine Sauce, as its an amazing accompaniment to to the steak.  Some before/after pics below: